Sunscreens that kill coral: Hawaii’s chem-ban now law


When last we spoke about Hawaii and their plans to ban some sunscreens, proposed law SB 2471 wasn’t yet live. As of this week, and thanks to Governor David Ige’s final signature, that law is in full effect. The law’s writing says that there’s a layover until January 1st, 2021*, at which point none of a certain set of sunscreens can be sold in or transported to Hawaii’s chain of islands – the entire state, that is.

A statement released by the office of the governor of Hawaii, David Ige, said this week that SB 2571, Act 104 was officially on the books. You can read the state legislature minutes for the bill and the law over at Hawaii dot GOV. “Studies have documented the negative impact of these chemicals on corals and other marine life. Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawai‘i’s coral reefs,” said Gov. Ige.

SEE WHICH: Avoid these sunscreens (they kill coral).

This law does the following, officially: “Bans the sale, offer of sale, or distribution in the State of any SPF sunscreen protection personal care product that contains oxybenzone or octinoxate, or both, without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider.”

UPDATE: The latest version of the bill – the one turned into an act (into law) this week – actually says “This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2063.” So that’s… pretty weak. The first proposed version of the bill suggested that it would take place starting on January 1st, 2019. Clearly they needed to make some concessions in order to get to a point where the governor would sign.

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A statement was released by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) this week suggesting the ban was a bad idea. They called the reasoning for the law’s proposal “weak science” and said the law put “families” in danger because it’ll be “more difficult” to protect themselves against the sun. The CHPA represents the people who sell the products that are set to be banned.

The new law will bar the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing two chemicals: oxybenzone and octinoxate. Cosmetics are not affected, nor are those sunscreens prescribed by doctors. There are sunscreens without these chemicals inside. They’re already out on store shelves, and they’re not difficult to find.

But the CHPA wishes to propagandize the situation, making it appear that evil scientists want to destroy the skin of your children, because they’re evil! In reality, it’s a matter of the companies the CHPA represents having to spend money to adjust their products according to new laws.

Fun fact: There are still people who advocate for the un-banning of asbestos, despite near-universal agreement across the entire planet that all forms of the material are harmful to humans. Imagine how much easier it’d be to fix this sunscreen situation than it was to un-do the massive-scale proliferation of asbestos that still riddles old buildings across the United States today. And yet, there’s money to be spent, so there are businesses that are ready to complain.

The above image was clipped from a photo from the DLNR & YOU “Reef Safe Sunscreen News Conference” that took place on 9/5/2016, with documentation at DLNR dot Hawaii dot GOV.

“The half-life of oxybenzone is about 2 1/2 years,” said Lisa Bishop, president of Friends of Hanauma Bay, via CourtHouseNews. “So this is very doable. If we start, the bill will help significantly cut back on the amount of pollution in areas.”

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*EFFECTIVE DATE NOTE: There seems to be some confusion over which date the ban will take place. According to the latest version of the bill-turned-act available to the public online, the effective date is “January 1, 2063.” According to the governor’s statement text: “The new law prohibits counties from restricting either chemical until the state ban becomes effective on Jan. 2, 2021.” I’d just play it safe and quit buying these products immediately, if I were you.

To learn more about this subject, head over to the SB NO 2571 SD 2 page at Hawaii dot GOV. There you’ll find the full final bill turned law, signed this week by the governor.

To read the study that lead to this bill-turned-act’s creation and signing, see the paper “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.” This paper is available at Springer from Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2016) 70:265–288. This paper can be found with code DOI 10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7. Authors include C. A. Downs, Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Roee Segal, et. all – and it was first published online on the 20th of October, 2015!



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